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Why is Walking Painful?

Nov 29, 2023 | Fitness & Wellness

Humans were built to walk.

A typical day sees most of us taking around 6,000 steps, yet the ideal target should hover closer to 10,000 daily steps.

But how can someone hit this target if they have pain with walking?

The answer is surprisingly simple — by training correctly for it!

Causes of Pain When Walking

Walking is such a basic function and yet so many of us can’t walk without pain.

For many patients we see in our clinics, painful walking comes down to one or more of four main reasons:

  • Tightness in the calf, ankle, or foot
  • Tightness around the knee
  • Weakness in the hip muscles
  • Weakness in the trunk/core muscles

The most common reason for pain while walking is the weakness of important muscles in our trunk and hips that help stabilize our joints as we move.

When we take steps, the muscles in our trunk and hips turn on to keep our spine and pelvis from jostling side to side. In the absence of strength, these muscles don’t maintain stability and forces bleed into joints like the low back and knees — leading to pain.

Tightness in the muscles that attach to our knee and ankle also plays a role in how well we walk.

If we can’t fully straighten our knees or if the calf and ankle muscles aren’t stretchy enough to allow a full range of motion, we find other and less efficient strategies to walk — which leads to poor quality in our steps.

How to Walk Without Pain

You might not have considered walking to be an activity demanding strength, but it is.

Above we learned that most people walk at least 6,000 steps daily. If you were to lift a box from the ground incorrectly thousands of times each day, would you anticipate feeling good afterward?

The same principle applies to walking — proper form is essential, as otherwise, our joints bear the brunt of the impact.

The video above features four tests to determine where your pain might be stemming from.

If walking is painful, try each test:

  • Calf Stretch – Ankle Mobility (Minute 2:25)
  • Knee Stretch – Knee Mobility (Minute 3:26)
  • Glute Bridge – Hip Strength (Minute 4:17)
  • Plank – Core/Trunk Strength (Minute 5:08)

If you struggle with a specific area, try incorporating the stretch you completed during the test into your daily routine.

For optimum results and to move and feel your best, incorporate each stretch!


    Choi, Bernard CK, Anita WP Pak, and Jerome CL Choi. “Daily step goal of 10,000 steps: a literature review.” Clinical & Investigative Medicine 30.3 (2007): 146-151.


Enjoy your favorite activities, pain-free.

Don’t miss out on your favorite activities because of pain! If walking is causing you discomfort and you’d like a personalized strategy to move and feel your best, our team of Physical and Occupational Therapists is here to help.

Treatment is covered by insurance, no referral is required to start, and with flexible in-clinic and virtual appointments available, you can find a time that works with your schedule.

Call 716-458-1990 or use this button to schedule online: